Singapore doesn’t often make it on foodies travel to-do list in Asia, but it should! Our foodie writer reminisces about her own experience eating the best food in Singapore – and what she still has on her food bucket list!
Singapore may be small, but she is mighty. From towering shopping malls and sparkling harbour lights to the vibrant Little India and China Town neighbourhoods, Singapore offers something for everyone to do, see and eat.
A bustling island City-State, Singapore is a relatively young nation: it celebrated its 50th birthday in 2015. Yet, the cultures of Singapore–and, of course, their diverse culinary traditions–date back centuries. Singapore’s population is a mix of ethnic Chinese, Malay and Indian (with Chinese as the majority and Malay and Indian comprising sizable minorities).
As such, Singapore’s streets are brimming with globe-spanning flavours, presenting the perfect foodie adventure whether you’re in town for a night or a week. But for the easily overwhelmed, what’s the best food in Singapore? What should we be putting on our foodie lists?
For those looking to indulge, Singapore boasts exceptional fine dining options (try Restaurant Andre, Waku Ghin and Iggy’s, a few of the world’s highest ranked restaurants), however, Singapore also offers countless ways to please the palate without breaking the bank. Whether you’re in the mood for late-night dim sum or midday laksa, Singapore’s range of local flavours leaves little to be desired.
Although Singapore doesn’t have street food, per say – insofar as you won’t find tiny street side stalls with tiny plastic tables a la Vietnam and Thailand – vibrant budget dining is alive and well. Where to find it? Try the island’s signature hawker centres and any crowded neighbourhood spot you stumble upon.
On a recent short stint in Singapore, I tried to get my hands on as many budget bites as possible. I’m already dreaming of my next visit, though, as my Singapore foodie bucket list remains enticingly unchecked. What follows are the best dishes I tried and the dishes I cannot wait to try when I’m back in beautiful Singapore.
(image source: flickr)
Late-night Dim Sum
After a night of classy rooftop cocktails, dancing, exploring and envying the Marina Bay Sands from afar, I’d worked up quite an appetite – but who am I kidding? I always have quite an appetite. Luckily, dumplings were just a short taxi ride away, and I was quickly satiated by a steady flow of delectable dim sum dishes – xiao long bao (soup dumplings), char siu bao (pork buns) and siu mai (steamed shrimp dumplings), oh my! – at the night owl-friendly Swee Choon Tim Sum Restaurant.
I’m a sucker for soup dumplings; I delight in that delicate nibble that lets the rich broth seep from the dumpling’s innard into the monstrous soup spoon. I bit, slurped and chewed my way through too many dumplings to count and ended my first Singapore evening happy and full.
Singaporean hawker centre grub at its finest
It seems that every corner of Singapore features a famous Hawker Centre, and we just happened to be staying near one of the island’s most scenic food emporiums: East Coast Lagoon Food Centre. Overlooking the glisteningly turquoise Singapore Strait, and situated within the expansive East Coast Park (worth an afternoon bicycle ride work up an appetite!), this modern, colourful hawker centre could keep one entertained for meals upon to meals.
Next time I’m in Singapore, I’m eager to try chili crab, laksa and bak chor mee, classic Singapore street grub.
Honestly, the only downside of hawker centres is that there is too much great food at your fingertips! I managed to grab an order of the best chicken wings I’ve ever had (I don’t say that lightly) from Ah Hwee BBQ Chicken Wings & Spring Chicken and took note of all the stalls I’ll patronize on my next trip.
(image source: Wikipedia)
Thanks to Singapore’s unique accumulation of Chinese, Malay and Indian immigrants over the centuries, a lot of Singaporean food reflects the blending of cultures. Take, for instance, the Baba-Nyonya community, focused in Singapore’s southeastern corner; these descendents of Chinese immigrants who wound up along Malay trading paths as early as the 15th century serve up their own brand of hybrid fare along Joo Chiat Road (CNN calls Nyonya fare “Singapore’s original fusion cuisine”).
Next time I’m in Singapore, I can’t wait to sample traditional Baba-Nyonya, also known as Peranakan, dishes like fish head curry and mee siam (stir-fried vermicelli with gravy).
So Much to Eat, So Little Time
Singapore is a foodie’s heaven, and I only scratched the surface. On my next Singaporean vacation, I will be adding an extra day or two to hop between hawker centres. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
Ready to eat your way through Singapore? Follow in Noey’s footsteps with customised (and plenty of food-focused) Singapore tours!